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Finance minister Mthuli Ncube

Africa

Looters ambush US$3,5 billion windfall

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WHILE government is still agonising about how to secure US$3.5 billion to compensate displaced mainly
white commercial farmers, fortune-hunters are already on the prowl positioning themselves for the windfall, The NewsHawks have established.

Owen Gagare

Members of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) said yesterday they have received reports showing
fortune-seekers are at work manoeuvring to position themselves for compensation under the Global Compensation Deed signed on 29 July between government and former farm owners.

Those who want to receive payment which they are not entitled to are strategically positioning themselves in different ways to become eligible for compensation.

One way they are doing it is through searching for farms whose former owners are now dead, and then
going to the companies registry to change directorships or put themselves in shareholders’ agreements.

Many farms belonging to displaced farmers were registered as companies. The other method being used is searching and locating owners who are out of Zimbabwe, and then cut deals with them to help them to secure compensation for both land and improvements in return for hefty payment. The other method they are using is
forging title deeds and records to claim ownership of the farms.

“We have received numerous reports of criminal elements who are searching for farms which were
owned by farmers who are now dead. What they do is if they find such farms, most of which are registered as companies, they go to the companies registry, find someone to pay there to change the records– back date them – so that they emerge as directors or owners of the entities that owned the land,” a senior Zacc commissioner said.

“We are handling many such cases. In some instances, they look for former farmers and then cut deals with them to help them to get compensation for land and infrastructure on condition that they will pay facilitation fees. The other
method used is just brazen fraud or criminality; just forge documents and claim compensation. We are dealing with one such a case in relation to a farm in Bromely in Goromonzi district. This is just one example; there are many others.”

Under the US$3.5 billion compensation deal, there are different categories of former farmers entitled to compensation: displaced white commercial farmers, those farmers from countries with bilateral agreements with Zimbabwe and black farmers. Displaced white farmers who are Zimbabwean are entitled to compensation for improvements on land, while local black farmers would get compensation for both the land and improvements,
just like farmers protected by bilateral agreements.

“Compensation of former farm owners whose land was compulsorily acquired for resettlement are
entitled, in terms of the constitution of Zimbabwe, to compensation as provided for under Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements or Bilateral Investment Treaties,” the government document says.

“Those former farm owners who are indigenous Zimbabweans or citizens of countries which had ratified Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements or Bilateral Investment Treaties with Zimbabwe at the time their land was compulsorily acquired for resettlement are entitled to compensation for both land and improvements, in terms of subsections (1) and (2) of Section 295 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”

Other categories of former farmers that may emerge will be compensated on a case by case basis. There were approximately 4 500 white commercial farmers on the land prior to 2000 when farm invasions began. According
to the constitution, these farmers are only entitled to compensation for improvements even if they bought
the farms. Black Zimbabweans, although the constitution avoids clarifying this racial distinction, will get
compensation for land and infrastructure. It is not explained why citizens are treated differently.

Government recently claimed there are 440 indigenous-owned farms which were acquired during fast-track land reform programme, although no list has been made available for public scrutiny. According to the constitution,
these farmers are entitled to compensation for both improvements and for the land.

In terms of the deal, former farm owners will first get a chance to go back to their land if feasible, get alternative land if they cannot go back and where possible, but where not possible to go back or get alternative they will be given compensation.

“This arrangement leaves a lot of room for corruption; to avoid criminals capitalising on these loopholes
government must publish the full list of displaced white commercial farmers, those protected by bilateral
agreements and displaced black farmers,” one Zacc official said.

“If this is not done corrupt individuals, farmers and government officials will connive to loot the US$3.5 billion. We are already receiving such reports and we have documents which we are still examining for authenticity, factuality and truthfulness. What is not in doubt though is that criminals are busy at work laying an ambush for the US$3.5 billion.”

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